Jake Ross set the early tone for the Licking County Christian boys on Monday.
With a little help from his friends down the stretch, the Eagles had their signature victory. Ross scored a team-high 21 points, and the Eagles were 27-of-31 from the foul line in a 55-45 victory against visiting Millersport.
“I don’t know if it was that we wanted to prove ourselves, but we were playing with a chip on our shoulder,” Ross said. “Coming out and beating them really means a lot to us.”
It is LCCA’s first victory against a Ohio High School Athletic Association opponent since 2010-11 when the Eagles beat both Northside Christian and Village Academy. The Eagles (11-7) lost 61-43 earlier in the season to the Lakers (8-10), but it was obvious from the start this matchup would be closer.
Ross, the Eagles’ junior point guard, continually got into the paint early, scoring and drawing fouls.
Ross had six points in the first quarter as the Eagles led 11-7 after one. The Lakers rebounded to take a 21-16 lead midway through the second quarter, but Ross and Mike Manson sparked a 13-0 run to give the Eagles a 29-22 halftime lead.
“We have definitely improved on our boxing out and defense,” Ross said. “People like (Liam Nutter) stepping up and grabbing boards helped. We were really looking forward to this game.”
Millersport chipped away at the lead throughout the second half, and the Lakers tied the game on two occasions at 43 and 45 during the fourth quarter. The Eagles did not have a field goal in the fourth quarter, but four players combined to go 14-of-16 from the line.
“Our third quarter is always our worst quarter,” LCCA coach Paul Davis said. “It has been the last 10 games. We just stuck together. Then, our fourth is usually our best, and it was tonight.”
The Eagles held Millersport scoreless the final 3:56. Alton Frizzell, the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer, had 21 points, but the Eagles forced him to take 25 shots to do it.
LCCA was playing without Matt Claggett in the post because of an injury. Tim Sunkel also was saddled with foul trouble. Nutter, a sophomore, stepped up, however, to contribute a game-high 14 rebounds.
“I like having to play under pressure and having to step up,” Nutter said. “I think it was a good challenge for me. I am glad it turned out the way it did.”
Manson had 13 points, including three 3-pointers, and Anthony Andrews added six points and a game-high four assists.
In the girls game, LCCA (6-6) fell into an early hole, and the Eagles could not quite dig out of it in a 48-41 loss to Millersport. The Lakers (3-13) built a 13-5 lead after one quarter thanks to a 9-1 edge in turnovers forced.
The Eagles cut a 15-point deficit to seven on three occasions in the fourth quarter. Clarissa Hutchinson’s steal and layup cut the deficit to 40-33 with 5:13 left. Brook Kinnard’s 3 with 1:51 left cut it to 46-39, and the Eagles got to the final margin on Leah Milhorn’s free throw during the final seconds.
Hannah Milhorn led the Eagles with 12 points and three assists. Abby McLaughlin added seven points, and Kinnard had six and 12 rebounds.